Lessons from Zarephath
There are a number of lessons Elijah learned from his experience at Zarephath, lessons that are still relevant to us today. Following is an overview:
#1: The lesson of contentment
The first lesson Elijah learned while at Zarephath was to be content with little. He learned to be content with little from a poor woman. The woman’s cupboard was bare. She had neither food, microwave nor maid to offer Elijah.
This was in contrast to the experience at Cherith, where Elijah had meals on wings. At Zarephath, everything the prophet ate had to be prepared by this poor, and undoubtedly busy, single mother.
Most humans don’t like being a burden to others. Yet apparently Elijah needed to go through that experience. Perhaps he had been too self-satisfied, or felt he needed no help. Like so many of us today, he was independent. But the Lord had an answer for this.
“Be dependant,” the Lord told Elijah. And so Elijah had to live in that poor, simple home.
Elijah had become accustomed to two full meals per day at the Brook Cherith. The Ravens brought breakfast and supper. Meat—though undoubtedly kosher—was even on the menu. But God had another lesson for Elijah. You can’t stand on Mount Carmel when your belly is stuffed with fried chicken. The Lord needed to give Elijah the experience of health reform–not hamburgers. And so he sent him to Zarephath. There, in that incredibly poor home, there were very few menu options. And they were all vegetarian.
My dear friends, we are nearing the close of probation. The health message needs to be sounded. If we are to see clearly between right and wrong, we need every bit of disorder out of our minds. If you don’t know how to fix a good vegetarian diet, now is the time to learn. We have got to quit making excuses. You can’t despise God’s health message and still stand on Mount Carmel. Like Elijah, we all have to learn that lesson.
No doubt Elijah would have preferred to find bags of rice or flour, and gallons of oil, in his new home. It’s human nature to want a cupboard full of food and a closet that’s packed with clothing. We want different styles, colors, and flavors. But though we find great variety in nature, this isn’t always God’s plan. God’s plan is to provide for his people one day at a time, and Elijah needed that experience.
Every single day as he and the widow scraped the bottom of the barrel, they learned to trust the Lord. Like each one of us, they didn’t know what would come tomorrow. They could know, however, who was Lord of tomorrow, and trust Him for daily provisions. This experience of trust is one that Elijah needed to have, and one that each of us needs in our daily experience.
“Give us each day our daily bread,” were the words of Jesus. The manna came not by the truckload, but in small, daily portions. The ravens brought just enough food for each meal, and at Zarephath the barrel brought forth the right amount of oil, day by day.
If we trust the Lord, making Him first, last and best in our lives, He has promised to make us the happiest people in the world. Your shoes may be worn out today, but if you are faithful to God, He will provide. Your kitchen may be empty and your bank account running dry, but all the world’s gold and silver belongs to our God. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the Lilly’s of the field and the fish that fill every ocean. And if God can clothe and feed the entire ecosystem, He can surely clothe you, feed you, and yes, even pay your taxes.
The Bible tells us to “be content with such things as ye have.” (Hebrews 13:5) And as we practice contentment, trusting God more fully than ever before, we can be sure that He will never leave us or forsake us. Listen to the testimony of the Scriptures:
“Elijah said to the woman, For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrel of meals shall not waste, neither shall the cruise of oil fail until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the land. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah and she and he her house did eat many days.” (1 Kings 17:14, 16)
The Lord is so good. His promises never fail! We can trust in such a God, knowing that He truly will never forsake us.
#2: Gentleness Under Provocation
Besides learning the lesson of contentment with little, Elijah needed to learn another important lesson: the value of gentleness under provocation. Elijah stayed in the home of this woman for nearly three years. And although things went pretty well for a time, life in Zarephath wasn’t without its challenges.
Perhaps Elijah, or the widow of Zarephath, started taking life for granted. This is a dangerous thing. Sometimes when we don’t appreciate God’s blessings as we should, He takes them away. Just when we feel complacent, safe and secure, God allows something to jolt us back to the realities of this life, forcing us to rethink our convictions.
One day when the widow went to the bedroom of her little boy, she noticed he wasn’t well. The Bible tells us that the child fell sick, and his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him. The child died.
When Elijah first met the widow, she took nothing for granted. She and her son were about to die of starvation, and she knew it. Now that her life had been spared, however, it may have been easy for her to think that she and her son would live forever. Now, when death took her child, she lashed out at the prophet.
“What have I to do with thee, O man of God?” she demanded. “Hast thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance and to slay my son?”
Her anger was really unjustified, for the prophet had nothing to do with the death of her son. Like so many of us today, the widow was somewhat of a fair weather friend, who forgets someone who has been a blessing in the past when suffering and sorrow come their way. We may lash out at a friend, family member or even God Himself. We may heap abuse on our husbands, wives, children or friends who have been very good to us. We all want someone to blame.
This “blame game” has been honed to a fine art in America. We sue people for this and that, even in the church. If we don’t like someone or what they do, we either sue them or leave the church. But of course, this doesn’t solve the problem.
Imagine a patient in a hospital who doesn’t like his fellow patients. If the patient gets mad and leaves the hospital, he still takes his illness with him. Blaming others for our own illnesses doesn’t cure anything!
So here is the woman of Zarephath, lashing out at the prophet. Though he has been very good to her, she succumbs to her anger in a moment of crisis.
“Give me thy son,” was the simple response of the prophet (verse 19). Here is a lesson for us–a lesson of gentleness under provocation. It is a lesson each one of us needs. It’s so easy to stand up in church, sing, teach a class, or do many lofty things—then come home and be very impatient with our families. Our spouse and/or children get on our nerves, and we are not gentle about it.
But the prophet Elijah teaches us to be gentle, even under provocation. It doesn’t matter where the provocation came from, we still need to be gentle. God’s Elijahs, those who will someday stand on Mount Carmel, will all have their tongues in check.
You can’t control your tongue on your own, of course. The gift of self-control and gentleness can be given only by the Holy Spirit. But it is a gift that will be exercised by all who stand on Mount Carmel, this gift of gentleness–even in the midst of provocation.
#3: The Convicting Power of a Godly Life
The convicting power of a godly life is another lesson to be learned from the prophet Elijah. By his godly example, Elijah convicted the widow of sin. Notice the words of the bereaved widow:
“Oh thou, man of God, have you come to bring my sin to remembrance and to slay my son?” (verse 18)
This woman had a guilty conscience. This is something that each of us, as children of God, can relate to. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Perhaps you have committed some unconfessed sin in the past. You haven’t asked for or experienced forgiveness. Perhaps the sin is a lie you told, some gossip you passed along, something you stole, an abortion you had, immorality you engaged in, or any other sin in your life. Unless you confess the sins you have committed in the past, they will surely be brought to the light. It doesn’t matter what sins they are or how secret they are. In moments of crisis, God will help you remember your sins.
Memories of an unconfessed sin are sometimes awakened by song. As you hear a particular song, you are reminded of your sin. Sometimes it is an old letter tucked away. Whenever you see that letter, memories of a sin from your past resurface. Sometimes a particular picture, or even a particular scent in the air, brings to mind sins unconfessed. In the case of the widow of Zarephath, the presence of the prophet Elijah served as a reminder of sin.
My dear friends, there is only one way for we who are burdened by guilt to overcome our past sins and move beyond the chains of a guilty conscience. We must follow what the Bible teaches with regard to unconfessed sin. God’s word says even if sins are as scarlet, He can make them as white as snow. Even if they are red like crimson, they can be as wool. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins–and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. More than that, God will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea, and remember them no more.
Perhaps you are burdened by guilt from sins you’ve committed. Perhaps you’re the only person who knows of your sin. My friend, you will never escape the chains of a guilty conscience unless you confess your sin to God, and ask His forgiveness. The Lord will forgive. If you will only tell Him, God will forgive every sin.
#4: The Power of Intercessory Prayer
The story of how God healed the widow’s son, in answer to Elijah’s request, is a prime example of the incredible power of prayer. Notice the details of the story. Elijah took the dead boy from the widow, and carried him up to the loft where he slept. There the prophet laid the boy on his own bed. Notice that Elijah took the woman’s burden, and made it his own.
This is another example for us. If we want to be Elijahs in these last days, we must carry each other’s burdens. We must take these burdens right to our beds, then kneel down and asking the Lord to intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters. Notice that Elijah carried this burden privately. He didn’t go out in public, or announce on the news that he would soon raise the dead. There was no evangelistic show involved—just a simple, and very private, prayer.
Elijah didn’t even ask the woman to join him. There is something to learn from this as well. We can’t assume that God hears our prayers just because we are many. God doesn’t succumb to the pressure of large scale lobbying. The combined efforts of all the political consultants, lobbyists and spin doctors in the world couldn’t move God. It’s the power of the prayer–not how many are praying it–that matters.
This is a rebuke to some of our attitudes and practices today. Instead of searching the scriptures for God’s answers and will, we pull together pressure groups to get God’s attention. Sometimes we even try to legislate things that God himself never legislated. But regardless of what we may legislate as a group, heaven will never ratify it. There are burdens we must bear by ourselves, just as Elijah did.
And so we find Elijah taking the child upstairs. The Bible tells us that Elijah stretched himself upon the child three times and cried unto God.
“Oh my Lord, I pray thee let this child’s soul come unto him again.” And it was Elijah’s intercessory prayer—a prayer made in the bedroom, alone–that God answered by bringing the child back to life.
#5: Persistance in Prayer
Although God eventually resurrected the boy, for some reason He chose not to bring the child back to life when Elijah first asked. Perhaps He was testing Elijah. In any case, Elijah cried out to the Lord three times about the boy. In other words, he prayed, prayed, and then prayed some more. The Lord didn’t say yes after Elijah’s first prayer, so Elijah prayed again, and kept praying. There was no response. It wasn’t until the third time Elijah prayed that he got the response he hoped for. There is a lesson here for us also, an important lesson about perseverance in prayer.
Perhaps there’s an item you’ve been praying about for some time, but the Lord doesn’t seem to answer. Don’t give up. The Bible says we must persevere. Keep on praying. Those who survive in the last days will be men and woman who persist in prayer.
The story of Elijah and the widow’s son is a great example of how persistance in prayer pays off, for the Bible tells us that God heard the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the child came unto him again. In other words, he revived.
What a powerful God we serve! He not only heals the sick, He raises the dead! He provides for the hungry and needy. He can hear the prayer of any one of His children. (Remember James 5).
Elijah was an ordinary person like you and I. He had no extraordinary power. He came from humble folk, a group of uneducated, country villagers. His training and his faith were developed the same way the Lord wants to develop our faith.
Elijah recognized that Jehovah liveth, and because of Elijah’s great and ever-increasing faith, the boy lived also. Which is why Elijah, no doubt with great joy, could bring the child down from the chamber into the house, deliver him to his mother and say with a joyful smile, “See, thy son liveth.
Notice the beautiful chain of events in this timeless Bible chapter. At the beginning of the chapter Elijah proclaimed that Jehovah liveth. In verse 12 the woman told Elijah that “Thy God liveth.” And now, with the child brought back to life, Elijah could jubilantly tell the woman, “Thy son liveth!”
Today, if we recognize that Jehovah liveth, and live a life of faith by the power of God’s grace, He can use us to restore life to ordinary people, even if we—like the prophet Elijah—are quite simple folk ourselves.
The Ultimate Proof of Success
The miracle of raising a person from the dead is one of the greatest proofs of divine power. We humans simply can’t go around raising people from the dead. If we could, there would never be another funeral. Perhaps the very impossibility of this act, outside of divine power, is why some charismatic churches are trying to mimic the life-giving miracle today, even on television.
The woman of Zarepath certainly recognized the importance of what happened to her son.
“Now by this I know that thou art a man of God,” she told Elijah, “and that the way of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.”
This was the final graduation certificate given to the prophet Elijah–to be recognized as truly a man of God. As difficult as it may seem, the Elijah’s of today need to attain the same certificate. Men of today, you cannot stand on Mount Carmel unless it is said of you “Now I know that this is a man of God.” Women of today, it should also be said of you that you are a “woman of God.”
Today we want to be known as men and women of talent. We want to be known as men and women of means. We want to be known by the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the degrees we hold. But none of these things can measure the man or woman of God. I repeat: those who stand on Mount Carmel are those of whom it can be said “Now I know that you are a man of God” or, “Now I know that you are a woman of God.”
This is the kind of witnesses God needs today. Men who recognize that Jehovah liveth. Woman who realize that God always stands by their side. Men who are willing to wait on the Lord, even when their brook dries up. Women who are willing to obey the Lord, no matter how bitter and trying it seems. Men who will be content with the little they have, who will be gentle under provocation, whose lives will convict those nearby that they are a man of prayer. Only such can be accorded the label “Thou art a man of God”.
You cannot stand on Mount Carmel unless you have graduated from both the training at Cherith and the home school of Zarephath. No doubt some of you reading this book wish to be like Elijah. You may have gone through the cutting experience at Cherith, but now you are chafing under the load in your home. Perhaps it is your child, your parents, your husband or wife who are giving you problems.
My dear friends, do not give up. The home school experience was designed by God for you. God wants to refine your life. He wants to bring out the very best in you. The provocations you receive at home are designed to evoke gentleness and self-control. Through the grace and power of God, you may receive God’s training, attend God’s home school, receive a “diploma”, and emerge victorious at last–just like the prophet Elijah.
Adapted from a sermon by Dr. Samuel Pipim. Published online by permission. Copyright ©2008 Cari Haus.